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The Secret Garden: Uncovering mysteries at a Kiva borrower

As a Kiva Fellow, each field visit to meet Kiva’s borrowers feels like an exciting, new experience! I compare it to reading a new book each time; and instead of starting at the beginning, you get to read the last page first. Today, I had the pleasure of visiting one of Kiva’s borrowers “Señora Carmen” at her farm in the idyllic Urquillos village in the Sacred Valley to see how her Kiva story turned out.

Outside Carmen's "White House": Carmen (extreme left), Diana (extreme right)

We arrived at noon to meet with her, and were welcomed into a huge 15th Century Colonial House they called “The White House” or “Loaizayoc.” We meet Carmen, with her business partner & home owner, Diana. The house itself is full of mysteries: there are stories of unicorns and ghosts. The scariest 18th century story that persists is of a young boy whose spirit is often encountered on the streets until this day. His painting hung in the house’s living room.

The mystery of the "little boy" in Urquillos

As soon as we entered, they drew us into an extensive tour of their farm. They introduced me to a wide variety of herbs, vegetable plantations, guinea pigs, ducks, varied flower varieties and trees. It was enchanting to hear Carmen and Diana talk with such passion of each of their plantations & they even offered traditional Peruvian/Andean recipes for each of their vegetables. Some of their flower varieties include: Gladiolas, Astromelias and Ortensiales. Diana & Carmen are constantly working on making their produce better and their farm more effective. With their Kiva loan, they can buy all the latest fertilizers and seeds to develop unused and fertile parts of the farm. 

These are some of my favorite plantations at their farm: rocoto or red chilies (top left), calabaza blanca or white pumpkin (top right), pink roses (bottom left), tuna or cactus pear (bottom right)

As they serve us some fresh organic meal, picked out from their farm - potatoes, boiled eggs, chicha or the traditional black corn drink in Peru and "tuna" or cactus pear; they talk about their communal bank at Kiva's Field Partner Arariwa. Carmen is the president of her communal bank, it's called “Virgen Carmen de Urquillos.” As president of the group, she organizes interesting events with her group members: they always contribute 5 soles to share a meal together during every meeting; they play Secret Santa every year & when somebody defaults, they go together as a group to find the defaulting member at their home & talk them into paying, for the sake of the group. Arariwa’s loan officers facilitate the communication among these groups, and this group has successfully paid off their loans over the last 3 years.
If you are touched by the generosity & determination of Kiva's borrowers like Carmen, feel free to lend for Asociacion Arariwa on

About the author

Janvi Gandhi

Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Janvi is a passionate researcher who believes in making the world a better place, one small step at a time. Unafraid to follow her passion, Janvi honed her research skills while completing a doctoral degree from University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain from the Department of International and Intercultural Studies. She has been involved in fieldwork, undertaking rigorous research assignments in conflict-ridden and underdeveloped rural areas of India during her Master’s education in Disaster Management from Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Recently, she worked as a short-term consultant on a large USAID project in Afghanistan, helping a consulting group to develop a risk assessment tool to improve their education programs. She has worked with numerous non-profit organizations in India, Spain and most recently, interned with Worldreader in San Francisco for the past year helping their teams in Ghana, Spain and India. She is excited to be a part of Kiva, and hopes that this experience will allow her to apply her skill set and open her mind to diversity, social entrepreneurship and rural development in Peru and Bolivia. Her hope is that experiencing empathy for other cultures, working with communities and taking action will help her make a difference in the world